"The Dollhouse... That's what we boys like to call it.... The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you."
Fiona Davis' stunning debut novel pulls listeners into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.
When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong - a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo, and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist - not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.
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Lifetime Movie in Book Form
I read/listen to 2-3 books a week, so I have sort of developed a way to categorize books after finishing them:
- waste of time
- worth a read but not for a whole credit (buy it on sale)
- solid book worth a credit
- worth a credit and telling friends about
I feel like this one falls into the 'buy it on sale' category. Interesting history, but not an experienced author and it showed. There were a few plot points that I felt weren't explained (can't elaborate without spoiling), and times that felt very 'Lifetime' for me, meaning silly/trivial misunderstandings creating the main obstacles for the characters. There were also parts that seemed to have no purpose - no character development, furthering of story, etc.
Would be a fine listen if you have a long drive - but wait until it's on sale.
Started strong but floundered
- Sherri Wildstein